NFL team re­ports:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Art Sta­ple­ton

Our an­nual looks be­gin with the Gi­ants, Browns and Tex­ans. Can any quickly rise to con­tenders? Plus, key ques­tions, depth charts and stats.

Three off­sea­son ques­tions fac­ing the Gi­ants:

Is go­ing “all in” on Man­ning the smart move?

Team brass is com­mit­ting to Eli Man­ning, at the very least for the 2018 sea­son. The com­mit­ment is de­pen­dent on per­for­mance, es­pe­cially with the pres­ence of 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb and 2018 fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta be­hind him on the depth chart.

Gen­eral man­ager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shur­mur be­lieve Man­ning can suc­ceed, and he’ll have no ex­cuses with the pieces put in place around him. Nate Solder is the best left tackle he’s had since Su­per Bowl XLVI as part of a re­build that in­cludes guards Pa­trick Omameh (free agency from the Jaguars) and Will Her­nan­dez (2018 sec­on­drounder).

Saquon Barkley is po­ten­tially the best all-around run­ning back in the Man­ning-led of­fense since Tiki Bar­ber. If Odell Beck­ham Jr. re­turns healthy, Man­ning has a chance for a big bounce back at 37.

How are things be­tween the Gi­ants and OBJ?

Co-owner John Mara was of­fered optimism re­gard­ing Beck­ham’s long-term fu­ture with the fran­chise last week.

In his first pub­lic com­ments since the league owner meet­ings nearly two months ago, Mara said late last week that “it was good to see” Beck­ham at the vol­un­tary work­out pro­gram and he sounded far more con­fi­dent in a con­tract res­o­lu­tion that will have No. 13 stay­ing with Big Blue be­yond this sea­son than he did when he fanned the flames — in­ten­tional or not — of a pos­si­ble de­par­ture.

“I wouldn’t say a sense of ur­gency (re­gard­ing a deal for Beck­ham be­ing fi­nal­ized be­fore the sea­son),” Mara said at the United Way’s Grid­iron Gala in Man­hat­tan. “The con­tract will get done when it’s sup­posed to be done. That’s a Dave Gettleman line, and I’m go­ing to adopt it. All spring, all sum­mer, as long as it takes.”

Asked di­rectly if he be­lieves Beck­ham will be a Gi­ant long term, as he has as­serted re­peat­edly in the past, Mara said, “I hope so.”

Trade ru­mors swirled around Beck­ham for about a two-week stretch on the heels of the NFL own­ers meet­ings when ini­tial com­ments from Mara seem­ingly opened the door to the pos­si­bil­ity the Gi­ants would con­sider deal­ing Beck­ham.

Mara said no player on the ros­ter was un­touch­able, and then cir­cled back 48 hours later in an at­tempt to squash the de­bate that had taken over so­cial me­dia, the tabloids and talk ra­dio.

“I don’t know how much more clearly I can say it, I don’t want (Beck­ham) to be traded,” Mara said about two months ago. “I want him to be a Gi­ant. I can’t say it’s a 100% guar­an­tee it will hap­pen. Can’t say that about any player.”

Beck­ham’s pres­ence at the train­ing fa­cil­ity in East Rutherford, N.J., over the past month has served as a state­ment about his com­mit­ment to the fran­chise in his quest for a new con­tract, not to men­tion the re­spect he has gained for Shur­mur in the short time they have known each other.

Will the pass rush come alive again?

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor James Bettcher has promised ag­gres­sive and re­lent­less within a scheme that will be far more mul­ti­ple and fea­ture 3-4 fronts. The Gi­ants were tied for 30th last sea­son in sacks (27), and they traded Ja­son Pier­rePaul to Tampa Bay. Had things gone dif­fer­ently in the draft, they could have added juice to the pass rush by se­lect­ing Bradley Chubb. In­stead, they went for the big of­fen­sive threat in Barkley.

Olivier Ver­non will move from de­fen­sive end to out­side line­backer, and the Gi­ants are op­ti­mistic he can ful­fill the po­ten­tial of a po­si­tion maxed out in Ari­zona by Chan­dler Jones last sea­son.

Ka­reem Martin will likely be op­po­site Ver­non, and while he can pres­sure the quar­ter­back, he’s more of a stout edge de­fender against the run.

A dark horse will be thir­dround pick Lorenzo Carter, who is raw as a pass rusher but his freak­ish tal­ent should be enough to get him on the field early in sub pack­ages. Ex­pect the sec­ondary to play a big­ger role with Lan­don Collins mov­ing around like a chess piece whom Bettcher can use to help ap­ply pres­sure.


For the sec­ond time in five sea­sons, Eli Man­ning threw less than 20 touch­down passes, fin­ish­ing 2017 with 19 in 15 games.

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